S’pore swimmer Tao Li’s surprise Olympic boost

Tao Li has been named among the 60 Team Visa athletes ahead of the Olympics (photo from Ruder Finn Asia)Tao Li has been named among the 60 Team Visa athletes ahead of the Olympics (photo from Ruder Finn Asia)

Singapore's swim queen Tao Li has been named as one of the 60 Team Visa athletes ahead of the 2012 Olympic Games in London.

The Team Visa initiative, a global sponsorship programme created to support athletes in their pursuit of Olympic glory, will see Tao join an illustrious list that includes China's tennis star Li Na, American sprinter Allyson Felix and multiple Olympic gold medallist Michael Phelps.

According to Visa, Tao, who has won two consecutive Asian Games gold medals and countless accolades in the SEA Games, was chosen because of her past achievements in the pool.

As part of the sponsorship, Tao, who will swim in the 100m butterfly in London, will receive "financial support, life-skill training and valuable marketing exposure".

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With the 27 July to 12 August Games less than three weeks away, Tao's fans can also support her through the Visa Go World Global Cheers campaign.

The vote of confidence from the payment card giant comes as a timely boost for the 22-year-old, as she continues to struggle for her best form ahead of the Games.

In an earlier interview with local media, Tao admitted she is "struggling", while her coach, Ian Turner, ranked her chances of finishing among the podium positions in London as "fairly remote".

The China-born Singaporean did not meet the "A" qualifying mark of 58.70sec for the event, although her best "B" time of 58.78, clocked at last July's World Championships in Shanghai, meant she qualified via an invitation from Fina, the international governing body for swimming.

Teenage swimmer Joseph Schooling is the only Singaporean to make the "A" cut for London, with his time of 1min 56.67sec in the men's 200m butterfly.

Despite her poor form, Tao is still aiming to better her performance in Beijing four years ago, where she became the first Singaporean to qualify for an Olympic "A" final.

She eventually finished fifth behind winner Jessicah Schipper of Australia.

Now with the added support from Visa, one only hopes Tao can move one step closer to her dream of bringing Olympic glory to Singapore.

Now 22, swimmer Tao Li will be hoping to bring Olympic glory to Singapore (Getty Images)Now 22, swimmer Tao Li will be hoping to bring Olympic glory to Singapore (Getty Images)